Classic Remarks: Contemporary Classic

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: What is a contemporary book you think might become a classic?  Or should become a classic? This is a difficult question for me because I don’t read a lot of literary fiction which is, in my experience, what is most likely to be taken seriously. Even within genre fiction I’m not super likely to read the critically acclaimed literature as much as I am to read the fun literature.

But perhaps I have a bit firmer of a grasp on what is going to be remembered in children’s literature and YA. While kids lit has a firm set of books that are by and large considerd “classics”, YA is so new that other than The Outsiders it doesn’t. But since there is so much content written for teens now, I think it’s inevitable that these lists start coming out.

When thinking about what would be included in a list of YA classics, it’s impossible to believe that the list would not include something by John Green. He has been consistently producing work that has received critical acclaim for long enough to be, well, influential. The only question would be, which book? Looking for Alaska is the most widely used in schools, while The Fault in Our Stars is easily the most popular of his books. In my opinion Paper Towns has the most to say about what it means to be human. I think ultimately Looking for Alaska’s consistent use by teachers and frequent bannings (which keep it on the librarians’ radar) will land this book in the YA cannon as that begins to develop.

Continue reading “Classic Remarks: Contemporary Classic”

Classic Remarks – The Ending of The Giver

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: How did you interpret the ending of Lois Lowry’s The Giver? I think it’s only fair to say before I start that I read this book as a novel study with my fifth grade (?) class, and we discussed this at length with the teacher, so my answer might be her answer…

I should also state that I have not read ANY of the sequels, and I have no idea what happens in them or what they are about or who the characters are, and it’s definitely possible that reading those books would change my interpretation.

In case you’ve forgotten, at the end of The Giver the protagonist, Jonas, kidnaps his adopted brother, Gabe, in order to prevent him from being “released”. They travel for days and days, and eventually the weather gets cold. They go on into the snow until Jonas finds a sled at the top of the hill, and they sled into a Christmas village where someone is waiting for them.

Continue reading “Classic Remarks – The Ending of The Giver”

Classic Remarks: Recommend a Diverse Classic

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Recommend a diverse classic. I should start off by saying that I haven’t read enough of them. My classic niche is definitely 1800s England and France, which I think we can agree weren’t the most diverse places. And so many of the “diverse” classics assigned to us in school (To Kill a Mockingbird, Heart of Darkness, Siddhartha) were actually written by white folks. In fact, if I’m being honest, both books I want to recommend today were written in the 1980s, so I don’t know that I can even really call them classics. So if you want a good recommendation for classics by diverse authors, I might recommend this list from Bookriot.

In the end, though, I think I’m going to stick with my wheelhouse, 1800s England. It’s pretty common knowledge now that Oscar Wilde was gay, but at the time homosexuality was still illegal and Wilde actually went to prison as a result of a semi-public affair. And while queer themes are usually veiled in Wilde’s work, his exuberant personality makes them such a joy to read and watch.

Oscar Wilde was most famous for being a playwright, and I highly recommend the 2002 movie version of The Importance of Being Ernset starring Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, and more. Wilde’s comedy is laugh out loud funny, and these actors really bring the larger than life characters to life.

But Wilde wrote a single novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, that is my recommendation today. It’s a haunting tale of young Dorian, a wealthy socialite so beautiful and self-absorbed that he wishes his portrait would age instead of him. When his wish is mysteriously granted, Dorian leads a life with no other purpose than to fulfill his every desire. As you can imagine, this leads to all kinds of tragedy for the people surrounding Dorian, and soon Dorian’s portrait is unrecognizable.

Continue reading “Classic Remarks: Recommend a Diverse Classic”

Classic Remarks: Classic Work that Needs a Film/TV Adaptation

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: What classic work should get a film/TV adaptation? It’s kind of a funny question because so many of my favorite classics have been adapted for the screen, often more than once. Great example is Pride and Prejudice which, off the top of my head, has four adaptations I love.

In fact, as I’m looking through my list, I don’t see any books that I think would make great films that haven’t had an adaptation. However, many of those adaptations are older, and I’m not a super fan of classic films. Nor am I a huge fan of the BBC Miniseries (I know, revoke my P&P fanclub card). So I have two suggestions to all of the major film studios who I know read my blog.

The first is that I would love to see The Scarlet Pimpernel get a 21st century update. Disney would do a great job, and I would love to see the team that worked on the original Pirates of the Caribbean bring one of my favorite books to life. It has everything a great blockbuster needs: romance, action, mystery, disguises, guillotines, British accents, French accents, period dress.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a classic that, in my opinion, doesn’t get enough attention, probably because it isn’t “literary” enough. But alll of the things that cause it to not get taken as seriously by the literature world are the exact things that would make for an excellent blockbuster film. It’s the story of a band of British nobleman who form a secret society to sneak the French nobility out of the country before they can be executed. A French actress name Marguerite is blackmailed into finding the identity of their leader, the dashing Scarlet Pimpernel, but at the risk of losing her husband forever. We could all use a little more French Revolution in our theaters, so I say give the people what they want: attractive men in period dress running amok with swords and kissing lovely women!

Continue reading “Classic Remarks: Classic Work that Needs a Film/TV Adaptation”

Classic Remarks: A Recommended Classic I Loved

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: What classic did you read – and love – because it was recommended to you? Well, the real answer is just about all of them.

Seriously. Pride and Prejudice because it was Kathleen Kelley’s favorite book in You’ve Got Mail. To Kill a Mockingbird because my sister-in-law said it was her favorite book. The Scarlet Pimpernel because my 12th grade world lit teacher read the first chapter aloud to us and I loved it. Their Eyes Were Watching God because my anthropology teacher recommended it. EVERYTHING from The Great American Read back in 2018.

In fact, I think I’ll go ahead and talk about a book from The Great American Read today. Because this is a book that I not only wouldn’t have read, but wouldn’t have even known EXISTED if it wasn’t for that PBS special. I was so inspired by listening to Noelle Santos,* owner of the small indie bookstore The Lit Bar, describe how it was the first book she saw herself in, and how it made her a reader, that I knew I just had to pick the book up. And I loved it.

*you can watch that clip here

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a coming of age story about a young daughter of immigrants living in poverty in early 20th century New York. Francie’s life is hard: her family can’t always afford food, her father is an alcoholic, her teachers abuse her, her neighborhood is dangerous. But she finds solace in books and in familial love. This book is tough and honest, but still full of the wonder of a child. Like The Catcher in the Rye, we might today consider this a “young adult” book, though certainly that descriptor did not exist when it was written in 1943.

Continue reading “Classic Remarks: A Recommended Classic I Loved”

5 Classics for Beginners

It’s no secret that I am a great lover of Classic Literature. Anything before about 1940 and I’m sold. Except for Dickens, don’t know why. *shrug* And when you are a lover of the classics, it comes up a lot. Especially on Instagram, for some reason. So a lot of the time I get asked the question:

“I want to read more/some classic literature, but I’ve never really read any. Do you have a recommendation of where to start?”

Why is it so hard for people to find a classic they think they’re interested in? My theory is because so many of them are SOOOOOO long, and people are intimidated by the length, and that they may have a preconceived notion that classics are slow or dull. Well, I’m not going to lie friends, many of them are long. And if your main source of literature is 21st century YA, then yeah, the pace is going to be a lot slower than you are used to. But I think they are worth reading anyway. Once you get used to the slower pace, you’re going to find some amazing stories.

Which brings me to my first recommendation. Don’t stop after one. If you find you don’t enjoy your first classic, don’t give up. Like I said, if you’re mostly used to YA, the different pace is going to take some getting used to. And, therefore, my second suggestion. Don’t read the one you’re most interested in first. I would hate for you to have a bad experience with Pride and Prejudice because you didn’t understand it, or because you were bored. Start out with one that you’re willing to not be in love with.

So, with no further ado, here are my suggestions for first classics.

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel is always my go-to suggestion for a first classic. Set in the era of the French Revolution, the daring Scarlet Pimpernel is an English spy who rescues the fleeing French nobility from the very jaws of Madame le Guillotine. French actress Marguerite, who has married into the very British nobility in the thick of these plots, must discover the identity of thy mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel, but will doing so forever estrange her from her doting husband?

I always recommend this book for a couple of reasons. The writing style is fairly quick and exciting for most of the book. It opens with a bang, a deception and a chase sequence sure to hook the reader in. By the end of the book I was turning pages so fast I don’t know if I was reading even half the words on the page, so desperate was I to find out what would become of Marguerite. The second reason is that this book has a really nice blend of a great spy story (with all the twists, disguises, and surprises) with a swoon-worthy love story. I think modern readers will really connect with the content of this book, and the writing style is very accessible. It is one of my all-time favorites.

Continue reading “5 Classics for Beginners”

I DNFed a book, but I didn’t hate it…

Usually when I see people talking about DNFing a book, it’s like giving it a rating worse than 1-star. It’s the WORST thing they could POSSIBLY say about the book. I was soooooo terrible that they couldn’t waste their time reading it. It was offensive and all remaining copies should be burnt. The author deserves to be tarred and feathered and THEN drawn and quartered.

And honestly, most of the time when I’ve quite books, it’s been because I … didn’t like them.

Full disclosure, I almost always finish books. I can count my dnfs on one hand. Oddly, all of them have been “Classics”. (especially odd considering the classics are one of my favorite genres…) This most recent dnf makes five even for me. Ever.

Continue reading “I DNFed a book, but I didn’t hate it…”

Maybe I Should be Reading with Cliff’s Notes…

So there I am, reading a classic like Bless Me, Ultima or something. And I’m reading it, and it’s gorgeous, and I can tell that it’s amazing, and I can tell that the author is trying to tell me SOMETHING, but I just. can’t. figure. it out.

I can’t be the only person this happens to, right?

I don’t know what it is about 20th century literature, but I always feel like I’m missing something. I know enough about literature to be able to tell that something is going on, but not enough to tell what it is. Maybe it’s that the literary elements they teach us in school like metaphor and symbolism are more relevant to Romantic literature than Modern and Postmodern. Maybe it’s just that I don’t really know all that much about literature, and I can’t figure it out without a teacher holding my hand.

I really want to like these books. I feel like I almost like them. I just don’t understand them well enough.

Continue reading “Maybe I Should be Reading with Cliff’s Notes…”

Calendar Girls March: Favorite Book with a Strong Female Lead

Welcome to March Calendar Girls! I’m feeling good today. Spring is here, I’m bound to not be sick anymore soon, and the future is looking up! I’m ready to talk about books. Who else is ready to talk about books?

Our theme for this month is Women’s History Month: books featuring a strong female lead. I had to think for a bit about this one. What is a strong female lead?

Typically when we talk about the strong female lead we’re talking about the warrior women. And, of course, the first book that came to mind was my all-time favorite, The Lord of the Rings. Eowyn has long been one of my favorite characters in literature because she rides to war with the men, but does so for love rather than glory. I was very much looking forward to talking about her for a few hundred words until I realized she’s not the lead. *sigh*

Which got me to thinking about my other favorite book: Pride and Prejudice. Because, is Elizabeth Bennett not also a strong character? Strength doesn’t only have to refer to strength in arms. Elizabeth thinks for herself, knows what she wants, and doesn’t let the men in her life tell her what to do. To me that is the definition of a strong female lead!

And yet, there’s also the anti-strong-female-lead idea, which proposes that those characters are just proof of how we prefer men by putting traditionally masculine qualities on to women before we can get behind them. Perhaps a woman like Mrs. Weasley who does what makes her happy and doesn’t worry about what she “should” want or do would be the most appropriate kind of woman to celebrate this month.

As you can see, I am waaaaay overthinking this prompt.

So right now I am stopping and going with my gut. My favorite (or at least a favorite) book featuring a strong female lead is…

.

.

.

.

.

.

Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Bronte

Okay, so I admit that this pick is … unusual. But what I love about Jane Eyre is that she is strong. She takes control of her own life, despite the multitude of people who are trying to set her path for her. She doesn’t let society’s expectations dictate who she is or who she will be. She has the sort of strength of character to say no to something she really wants when she knows it is the right thing to do. Jane is a woman that I have looked up to for my entire adult life.

For those of you who don’t know, Jane Eyre is the story of an orphan raised in terrible, abusive situations, who rises to become a governess in a wealthy home. She falls in love with the master of the house, but there is more to Mr. Rochester than meets the eye. It’s moody, mysterious, brooding, and the original feminist novel. (my opinion)

While I’ve seen modern feminists critique Jane Eyre, at the time it was written it was like nothing literature had ever seen before. Even now, nearly two hundred years later, it remains one of the most celebrated works of literature in history. And it was written by a WOMAN. Y’all, that’s pretty amazing.

Women’s History Month
Favorite Book with a Strong Female Lead

Our Picks

Jane Eyre – Katie (that’s me!) @ Never Not Reading
The Poet X – Adrienne @ Darque Dreamer Reads
To Best the Boys – Teri Polen
Dread Nation – Deanna @ Deanna Writes About
A Court of Mist and Fury – Flavia @ Flavia the Bibliophile
Skyward – Lucinda @ Lucinda is Reading
Harry Potter – Samantha @ Modern Witch’s Bookshelf
A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Sophie @ Beware of the Reader
The Last Letter – Sophie @ Beware of the Reader
Kat and Meg Conquer the World – Dani @ Mousai Books
I Am Malala – Ashely @ Inside My Minds
An Ember in the Ashes – Liz @ Stellar Kitten Book Reivews


Featured Image -- 7584

Calendar Girls is a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books, and Flavia at Flavia the Bibliophile, and is now be hosted by me (!), Katie, and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers, and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song, Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme, and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. Make sure to post back to the hostess’s post, and I will make a master list for the month. The master lists allow everyone to see the other Calendar Girls’ picks and to pop on over to their blogs. Thus, we all get to chat about books and even make some new friends!

Sign up for the Calendar Girls newsletter.

Thoughts from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

220px-TreeGrowsInBrooklynGenres: Fiction, Classics
Maturity Level: 4
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.


I wasn’t sure, before I started, whether I would like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or not. I don’t typically enjoy 20th century American literature, and it’s so LONG. But the longer I read the more enchanted I became. Continue reading “Thoughts from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”